Mindfulness in Education
Mindfulness in education or in the classroom, implies a host of different things- it can be something as simple as calming the children down before the start of a class to something more complicated like studying the effects of words on their emotions or just making them aware of their environment and their role in society
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In today’s fast paced world, adults and children alike are following a frenzied pace. This pace results in behaviors that lead to anxiety, stress and depression, as is witnessed by the increasing number of teenagers that are diagnosed with depression. Since children spend a large chunk of their time in schools and educational institutes, educators have a started a very serious conversation around mindfulness in education.
What does mindfulness in education mean? Mindfulness as defined by Merriam – Webster is the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. To put it simply it means “being in the now”. Mindfulness in education or in the classroom, implies a host of different things- it can be something as simple as calming the children down before the start of a class to something more complicated like studying the effects of words on their emotions or just making them aware of their environment and their role in society. The purpose of introducing mindfulness in the classrooms is to equip children to deal better with their daily lives and experience the joys of it
While it may seem like a “mindful education” is the prerogative of those who have the luxury of time and are not bound by the strict requirements of academic rigour and national board examinations, that is not the case. Mindfulness in education doesn’t imply a change in what you teach but rather, how you consciously blend mindful techniques into your classroom. The purpose of mindful education is to inculcate consciousness in each child, so that they are aware of their feelings, their environment and their responsibilities. It enables us to be empathetic and more productive. For instance, when a preschool teacher asks her children to just take 10 deep breaths before they start a class, she is teaching them a mindfulness technique, but finally it will result in her children being more attentive in the class.
When we refer to a mindful education, we are not only talking about meditative techniques but a gamut of topics including:
- Being mindful about the environment
Given the aberrant increase in the occurrence of natural calamities and extreme weather conditions, global warming is fast becoming a reality that most non-believers will also need to accept soon. Teaching children from a young age the impact that man has on their environment and teaching them simple tools enables them to make life long changes that will ultimately raise a more conscious generation.
- Being mindful about your peers
In a world that is becoming more transient, tolerance and empathy are non-negotiable. Parents are constantly moving from one country to another and sometimes to countries where their children are in a minority. As educators we must inculcate in our children, the ability to accept and celebrate differences rather than use it as a reason to alienate someone. Bullying has become commonplace with statistics showing that almost 1 in every 5 children gets bullied. Being mindful about your peers encourages each child to look at another person’s point of view and see where they are coming from. They are able to understand and pause before they react.
- Being mindful about your own well-being
As children and as adults, we tend to take our mental, emotional and physical well-being for granted but being mindful teaches us to start paying attention to each aspect. If, from a young age, we are steered to make healthy choices, learn to be physically active and spend some time just being in the now, we will grow up to be more balanced individuals.
- Being mindful about time
Time gets away from us very quickly if we don’t use it. Time management is something that we struggle with no matter how old we are. Teaching children to respect time, to plan better, enables them to accomplish all they want to do. In this era of social media, we tend to spend an inordinate amount of time on various technological platforms, being mindful enables us to consciously curb that tendency.
- Being mindful about your actions
As human beings, we live in a society and in a community, our actions don’t only impact us but also the people around us., It could be family, strangers, or the environment at large, thus, it is important to be mindful of our actions., We often feel but what can one person do, but every movement starts with individuals changing their behavior. Being mindful of our actions makes us more compassionate and aware citizens. Children understand the concept of cause and effect only broadly, but drawing their attention to it makes them conscious of the actions that they take.
- Being mindful of your learning journey
Always asking yourself, ‘How can I learn?’ What can I learn? And reflecting on one’s own learning journey is what mindfulness entails. The minute we stop learning, we stagnate. Learning does not imply sitting only in a classroom setting but it can be something new, something that you are passionate about. For example, a student in your class may be passionate about pottery or meditation or poetry, encourage them to go out and learn it. Thinking that learning is limited to a classroom is being ignorant about the true purpose of learning. We are learning every single day, from everyone we meet or interact with.
- Being a mindful collaborator versus mindless competitor
Teaching children how to look at peers as people that can help them rather than looking at each of them as a competitor fosters a healthy classroom environment. Eventually, it enables children to become better leaders, because leaders are not only people that can lead but more often, they are people who can keep teams together, who can work with everyone and give credit to every individual on their team.
The list of activities included in a mindful education are endless, these are just a few of them which give us an idea of how all-encompassing, a mindful education can be. It enables educators to make a long term impact on the lives of their students and affect them positively.
In order for mindful education to become a norm, our educators need to be trained. Non-profits such as the Mindful Schools Organization in California have trained educators who have impacted over 1.5 million children worldwide. This is only one such organization, there are myriads of organizations that have started worldwide to ensure that education for our children is relevant.
Schools adopting mindful education are usually progressive thinking schools that recognize the socio-emotional challenges faced by children today and are actively trying to make a difference. As the Buddha says, “Living 24 hours with mindfulness is more worthwhile than living 100 years without it.”
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
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